It’s a huge no-duh that we live in an Information Age: from
high speed Internet to 4G cell networks, we can get whatever we want wherever
we want it – data-wise – at practically at the speed of light.
But sometimes I miss the old days. No, they weren’t – ever – the Good Old Days (I still
remember liquid paper, SASEs, and letter-sized manila envelopes … shudder), but back then a writer had a damned
long time to hear about anything to do with the biz.
If you were lucky you got a monthly mimeographed newsletter but
otherwise you spent weeks, even months, before hearing about markets or trends
… and if you actually wanted contact with another writer you either had to
pick up the phone, sit down and have coffee, or (gasp) write a letter.
No, I’m far from being a Luddite. To borrow a bit from the great (and late) George Carlin:
“I’ve been uplinked and downloaded. I’ve been inputted and outsourced. I
know the upside of downsizing; I know the downside of upgrading. I’m a
high-tech lowlife. A cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, bicoastal mutlitasker, and
I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.”
I love living in The
World Of Tomorrow. Sure, we
may not have food pills or jetpacks but with the push of a … well, the click
of a mouse I can see just about every movie or show I want, read any book ever
written, play incredibly realistic games, or learn anything I want to know.
Here it comes, what you’ve been waiting for … but
… well, as I’ve said many times before, writing can be an emotionally
difficult, if not actually scarring endeavor. We forget, far too often, to care for ourselves in the manic pursuit of our writing ‘careers.’ We hover over Facebook, Twitter and
blog-after-blog: our creative hopes of success – and fears of failure – rising
and falling with every teeny-tiny bit of information that comes our way.
I miss … time. I miss weeks, months of not knowing
what the newest trend was, who won what award, who sold what story to what
magazine, who did or did not write their disciplined number of pages that
day. Back then, I just sat down
and wrote my stories and, when they were done, I’d send them off – and
immediately begin another story so when the inevitable rejection letter came I
could, at least, look at what I’d sent and say to myself Feh, I’ve done better since.
I’m not the only one.
Just this week I had to talk three friends off rooftops because they looked
at their sales figures, read that another writer had just sold a story when
they’d just been rejected, heard that the genre they love to work in is in a
downward spiral, that they’d been passed over (again) for an award, or that
someone else had written ten pages that day … and all they’d managed to do
was the laundry and maybe answer a few emails.
It took me quite a while but I’ve finally begun to find a
balance in my life: a way to still happily be – and now we’re bowing to the
really-dead Timothy Leary – turned on, tuned in … by dropping out.
Far too many writers out there say that being plugged in
24/7 to immediately what other writers are doing and saying, what their sales
are like moment-by-moment, or the tiniest blips in genres, is the way to
go. While I agree what we
all have to keep at least one eye on what’s happening in the world of writing
we also have to pay a lot more attention to how this flow of information is
making us feel – and, especially, how it affects our work.
By dropping out, I mean looking at what comes across our
desk and being open, honest, and – most of all – caring about how it makes us
feel. You do not have to follow
every Tweet, Facebook update, blog post, or whatever to be able to write and
sell your work. You do not have to
believe the lies writers love to tell about themselves. You do not have to subscribe to every
group, forum, or site. You do not
have to hover over your sales.
I’ll tell you what I tell myself – as well as my friends who
are in the horrible mire of professional depression: drop out … turn it off. If the daily updates you get from some writer’s forum make
you feel like crap then unsubscribe.
If you don’t like the way another writer makes you feel about you and
your work then stop following them.
If the self-aggrandizing or cliquish behavior of a writer
depresses you then stop reading their Tweets, blog posts or whatever.
You do not have to
be a conduit for every hiccup and blip of information that comes your way. You
Are A Writer … and, just like with flesh-and-blood people, if something diminishes
you in any way, punches you in the emotional solar plexus, or keeps you from
actually writing, then Turn It Off.
This is me, not you, but I don’t follow very many writing
sites. ERA, here, is wonderful, of
course … but beyond the true, real professional necessities, I only follow or
read things that are fun, educational, entertaining, uplifting, and – best of
all – make me feel not just good about myself and my writing, but want to make
me sit down at my state-of-the-art machine and write stories.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about …
and everything else either comes a distant second or doesn’t matter at all.